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History of Lamborghini: 1981-1987


Fortunately, the allure of these cars, flaunting a name that had now become a legend, coupled above all with the absolutely unrivalled aura of the Countach, aroused enormous interest in the company. As soon as it was put up for liquidation, it had a number of admirers lined up to take it over. The judge entrusted the company to two brothers, Jean-Claude and Patrick Mimran, the wealthy owners of a sugar empire in Senegal and, naturally, sports car lovers. The two brothers, assisted by their plenipotentiary in Sant'Agata, Emil Novaro, immediately set out to reconstruct the company. The 'Nuova Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini SpA' company was thus formed in January 1981 and from that moment on, work was seriously underway again. One of the first decisions - an exquisitely technical one - was to hire engineer Giulio Alfieri as the company's technical director.

With this celebrated designer at the helm of the company and loyal staff members Lamborghini went to the Geneva Motor Show in March 1981. It exhibited a Miura, restyled by a Swiss company with debatable results, and the Countach S with its large rear wing. Also on display was the initial attempt to reinterpret the hefty off-road Cheetah, which had been modified extensively to avoid legal action threatened by FMC and was thus dubbed the LM. However, the most tangible and reassuring sign of the new path undertaken by Lamborghini came with the first appearance of the Jalpa. The injection of capital by the Mimran family finally made it possible to resume serious development work on the Countach, which had essentially remained the same since 1973, with the exception of wider mudguards and tyres for the S version. Alfieri increased the displacement of the classic 12-cylinder engine, bringing it to 4.7 litres to crank out 375 hp and thus recuperate the outstanding performance that had been sacrificed to some extent by the tyres and aerodynamic additions. This was the Countach 5000, whose look was virtually indistinguishable from the 4-litre S version.

The Mimran brothers also decided to insist in the direction - certainly innovative for the period - of large high-performance off-road vehicles. Also in 1982, the engine was judiciously moved in front of the cockpit, culminating in the prototype known as the LMA, an acronym that, according to different interpretations, may mean 'Lamborghini Motore Anteriore' or 'Lamborghini Militare Anteriore'.

Although it was costly, work continued to develop the off-road model, which became the LM 004. By this time, it had a colossal 7-litre front-mounted V12 engine and, for the first time, its top speed broke the barrier of 200 km/hour. Pirelli collaborated with Lamborghini to develop a new top-performing tyre that could be used on any terrain, from asphalt to the sands of the great African deserts. This would become the Pirelli Scorpion.

At the same time, work also proceeded on an in-depth technical update of the cars. In 1985, the Lamborghini stand at the Geneva Motor Show presented the new version of the Countach, the Quattrovalvole. Alfieri extensively redesigned the entire classic Lamborghini engine, which had first been put out nearly 22 years earlier. He further increased its displacement to add power, and by using heads with four valves per cylinder, the 5167-cc engine climbed to 455 hp at 7000 rpm, a power level that put the Countach well ahead of all its traditional rivals. After years of problems, evolutions, redesigns and modifications, Lamborghini's hefty off-road vehicle finally went into production: the year was 1986. The LM 002 mounted a V12 engine that was essentially the same one used for the Countach, giving up the idea of mounting the enormous 7-litre of the previous prototype.

Through the shrewd reconstruction work spearheaded by the Mimran brothers and Emil Novaro, the revival of Lamborghini was firmly established by this time. The year 1987 was a positive one, with good sales of both the Countach and the Jalpa. In the meantime, orders started to roll in for the LM and development work continued on the whole line-up. The early prototypes of the Tipo 132, destined to become the successor to the Countach, began to circulate. In 1987, work was also undertaken to develop a car derived from the Jalpa, but with a canvas top: this was the Jalpa Spyder, also known as the Speedster. A prototype was built but the car never went into production, due to technical difficulties.